The Fifth to Die

The Fifth to Die [review]

The Fifth to Die

Title: The Fifth to Die
Author: J.D. Barker
Series: 4MK
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin


In the thrilling sequel to The Fourth Monkey, a new serial killer stalks the streets of Chicago, while Detective Porter delves deeper into the dark past of the Four Monkey Killer.

Detective Porter and the team have been pulled from the hunt for Anson Bishop, the Four Monkey Killer, by the feds. When the body of a young girl is found beneath the frozen waters of Jackson Park Lagoon, she is quickly identified as Ella Reynolds, missing three weeks. But how did she get there? The lagoon froze months earlier. More baffling? She’s found wearing the clothes of another girl, missing less than two days. While the detectives of Chicago Metro try to make sense of the quickly developing case, Porter secretly continues his pursuit of 4MK, knowing the best way to find Bishop is to track down his mother. When the captain finds out about Porter’s activities, he’s suspended, leaving his partners Clair and Nash to continue the search for the new killer alone.

Obsessed with catching Bishop, Porter follows a single grainy photograph from Chicago to the streets of New Orleans and stumbles into a world darker than he could have possibly imagined, where he quickly realizes that the only place more frightening than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.

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[My Review]

I loved J D Barker’s first novel, The Fourth Monkey, so couldn’t waitto read the follow-up, titled The Fifth to Die. I’m pleased to report that it steps up to the mark as being deliciously twisted, dark and entertaining!

We meet the characters from book 1, and various aspects of book 1 continue in this novel – I won’t go into detail so as not to spoil anything. If you haven’t read The Fourth Monkey then I’ll just say – stop right here and go back and read it now, you’ll be a bit (okay, a lot) confused if you don’t. At first it took me a while to remind myself how book 1 had left things, but from that point on I stormed through this novel.

In The Fifth To Die we’re met with multiple murders needing to be solved, with the ever-present threat of Anson Bishop, who is still on the run from police, lurking in the background and keeping Sam Porter occupied. I think Sam’s a great character, and the rest of his team are brilliantly entertaining in the way they work with him and eachother. Anson Bishop is also verey entertaining – in a different way! There are plenty of humorous moments peppered among the fast-paced action and odd events, which keeps the book’s crimes from being too horrifying. For me, the balance is just right and there are of course some surprises along the way too, all of which makes for an addictive thriller which is just as brilliant as the first in the 4MK series. The ending is bound to divide people, but I loved it, and it made me even more excited to read book three – I hope the series has many more to come!

[Rating: 5/5]

A copy of this novel was provided on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.



The Day of the Accident

The Day of the Accident [review]

The Day of the Accident

Title: The Day of the Accident
Author: Nuala Ellwood
Publisher: Penguin


They say you killed…BUT WHAT IF THEY’RE WRONG?

Sixty seconds after she wakes from a coma, Maggie’s world is torn apart

The police tell her that her daughter Elspeth is dead. That she drowned when the car Maggie had been driving plunged into the river. Maggie remembers nothing.

When Maggie begs to see her husband Sean, the police tell her that he has disappeared. He was last seen on the day of her daughter’s funeral.

What really happened that day at the river?
Where is Maggie’s husband?
And why can’t she shake the suspicion that somewhere, somehow, her daughter is still alive?

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[My Review]

I have conflicting feelings about this novel. On the one hand, it does intrigue and mystery well; I spent the first 2/3 of the book really intrigued as to what had actually happened on the day Maggie’s daughter dies. However, I felt that the story was just a bit too unbelievable and unlikely. I didn’t believe that a lot of it would actually happen, and although that doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t enjoy a book (I don’t mind books that make me have to suspend by disbelief), this just didn’t wow me.

The plot is entertaining, and I enjoyed the slow reveal as Maggie begins to realise what happened in the lead up to ‘that day’. There were parts that surprised me, and I like Nualla Elwood’s writing (I loved My Sister’s Bones so was really excited to read this). I warmed a lot to Maggie as time went on, and was willing her to discover what had happened. I also really liked one part of the ending where the character I assumed would come out of it all as squeaky clean, didn’t quite – which kept that side of things believable (keeping it vague as I don’t want to give too much away). I didn’t guess the ending but it felt a little too stretched for me.

The Day of the Accident just didn’t quite live up to expectations compared to My Sister’s Bones – but perhaps I’m at fault for comparing the two books, I’m sure authors hate it when readers always do that…! So I feel that it’s still worth a read as it’s entertaining and kept me guessing, plus many other reviews have raved about it so I seem to be in the minority here by thinking it was just ‘OK’.

[Rating: 3/5]

Many thanks to Penguin for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.


What Was Lost [blog tour review + author post] @domepress

What Was Lost bc

Today I’m excited to be a part of the blog tour for Jean Levy’s debut novel What Was Lost. Read on for my thoughts and for a special guest post from Jean herself!

Title: What Was Lost 
Author: Jean Levy 
Publisher: Dome Press


How would you live if you had no memories? And what if you were suspected of a terrible crime?

Sarah has no memories. She just knows she was found, near death, on a beach miles from her London home. Now she is part of a medical experiment to see whether her past can be retrieved.

But bad things seemed to have happened before she disappeared. The police are interested in her hidden memories too. A nice man she meets in the supermarket appears to have her best interests at heart. He seems to understand her – almost as if he knows her…

As she fights to regain her memories and her sense of self, it is clear that people are hiding things from her. Who are they protecting? Does Sarah really want the truth?

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[My Review]

What Was Lost is a gripping novel which caught my attention right from the start. Sarah doesn’t know what happened to her to make her lose her memories and she doesn’t remember a lot about her previous life ‘before’ the day that she was found, with amnesia, on a beach. From there on, the story creates a sense of confusion in that the people around Sarah, who are supposedly ‘looking after her’, don’t always seem to be nice people. This made me wonder if they could have their own agendas, and this adds to the sense of mystery surrounding Sarah’s case.

The plot is entertaining and, though I’ve read various books over the years about amensia, this describes the way Sarah tries to piece her ‘lost’ memories together in a way that I feel is convincing and realistic (not that I’m an expert, obviously). Sarah is an interesting character – though I don’t agree with all of her choices, I did empathise with her and really wanted to find out what had happened to her, just like she herself was desperate to know. With the police also very interested in what had happened (for reasons you’ll find out in the book), this added an extra sense of mystery and made me wonder, along with the police and doctors, whether Sarah’s memory had been lost because she wanted to forget something… and, most of all, whether Sarah is a reliable character or not?

What Was Lost is beautifully written; I feel like as a reader I got right inside Sarah’s mind, and Jean Levy’s writing strikes just the right balance between being flowing and descriptive, but also exciting and fast-paced. It’s a fairly long read, but it never felt like filler… only thriller! (sorry.) Some parts of the story moves along much more slowly, but this means you feel more of what Sarah might be feeling at that time, whilst at other points we find out a lot about what happened back then, through Sarah’s experiences and various ‘flashback’ chapters, which adds a level of excitement to the story.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the Dome Press for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

[Author post]

‘…it really did all begin with an apple.’

After several years of academic writing, which I didn’t much enjoy, I decided to write a novel. Well, I’d had stories in my head all my life. They were full of people who did interesting things, found themselves in difficult situations. Heroes would save them. Sometimes, the hero was a version of me, but not a very realistic one. There were good people and bad people, and the bad people were always defeated, occasionally converted to goodness by the good people. My novel would be about such people.

I wrote words, chapters. I discovered, almost immediately, that there is a chasm between the unreal world of fiction and the occasionally real world of science. And writing fiction when you’ve spent years writing about genetics, biotechnology, psychology and medicine is not just a case of opening a new folder and writing a first paragraph. There are considerations: characters, locations, timelines, plots, narrative sequencing. And that’s just for starters. So, I shelved my emergent novel and went back to college to study literary things. And it was very interesting. Especially the assignments. One early assignment required the first three chapters of a novel. A novel? Surely not the one on the dusty shelf. I had been 50,000+ words into that and didn’t want to revisit the first three chapters, not just yet. Not in my state of literary naivety.

Our tutor offered advice: start at the beginning and write about what you know. I thought back to a beginning. And a clear image of that chart of letters in Primary School popped into my mind: A is for Apple. I could remember it clearly. An interesting thing, this remembering. So, I decided to write about memories, about keeping them and losing them. And that’s when Sarah began. She was living alone, following some kind of trauma which had erased her memories back to the time she was nine years old. I had no clear idea about the nature of the trauma. I’d work that out later. The important thing was how this loss of her past was influencing her life. Then, out of the blue, just a few pages in, she had an encounter with a guy in a supermarket. It was an apple-related incident. And suddenly, with her nine-year-old’s experience and her adult physiology, Sarah was smitten. But the three chapters ended there. Next assignment, Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray, and Sarah joined the other 50,000+ words on the dusty shelf.

By now it was becoming clear that the English degree wasn’t going to be enough. I needed to investigate psychonarration, free indirect discourse, non-linearity, Genette’s treatise on narrative discourse, getting published. I took a course in Creative Writing and wrote a lot. For the main assessment I needed to submit 35,000 words of linear narrative so I turned to the dusty shelf, removed Sarah from half way down the pile, and worked out what had caused her to lose her memory. But, having done that, I couldn’t stop thinking about her and the guy in the supermarket. So, when the course finished I wrote Sarah’s story. She became a successful writer of children’s books, who had forgotten how to write. In fact, she had forgotten everything except those first nine years. It was a great story. I called it Malus. I prepared to submit it to agents. That in itself is a revelation. Diplomas and degrees do not guarantee adulation. They declare technique not imagination.

Anyway, the fates did send me an agent and introduced me to the weird and wonderful world of publishing. And the rewrites began: the third-person omniscient narrator became Sarah’s first-person narrative … everything was now through Sarah’s eyes. A great improvement. Then some non-linear sequences were called for. Another undeniable improvement. More of this, less of that. A new title. How do these people know this stuff? But they do.

The result is What Was Lost. It’s still a story about Sarah and the guy in the supermarket. And it still all begins with an apple.

[About the Author]

Jean Levy Headshot 2Jean spent several years in genetics research before abandoning the laboratory to pursue a career in academic publishing both in Holland the UK. She has been a database trouble-shooter, an editor, and a writer for publishing houses, pharmaceutical companies and the EU. She has degrees in Botany, Pathology, Philosophy, English, Law and Creative Writing and is currently completing a doctorate in Linguistics.

In her spare time she has campaigned for the environment and read a lot of books, the most memorable being Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, everything by Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson, and a few things by Sebastian Faulks, Calvino, Ian McEwan, David Mitchell and Shakespeare.

She currently lives in a converted barn in the South Downs with her husband and a
Heritage Plant Collection, accumulates Christmas tree decorations and aspires to writing
multi-genre fiction, travelling on the Orient Express and seeing the Northern Lights.

[Follow the Tour]

WWL Blog Tour Poster


Theo by @mrsamandaprowse [review]


Title: Theo
Author: Amanda Prowse
Publisher: Head of Zeus


There are two sides to every love story…

Anna Cole grew up in care, and wants to start a family of her own. Theo Montgomery had a loveless childhood, and wants to find his soulmate.

Then, one day, Theo meets Anna, and Anna meets Theo.

Each shows the other how to love. And each shows
the other what heartbreak feels like…

This is Theo’s story.

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[My Review]

I love Amanda Prowse’s writing and characters, and Theo is no let down! Anna was a great read so I was really looking forward to getting back into their world, and seeing their relationship from another perspective. This novel filled in the (important) gaps in a satisfying way… but left me still wanting more.

As with Anna, the characters are great, but I felt I actually connected more with Theo than Anna, once I read both their stories. Not because of a similarity in background with Theo – I really don’t have much in common with either character, I’m very lucky to say. More because I prefer Theo as a character – though Anna was truly sweet and lovely, she sometimes felt a little too naive and I didn’t feel as much of a connection. In Anna I didn’t feel like we got to know much about Theo, so this novel corrects that and I’m so glad – Theo is a great, but suitably layered and interesting, character.

There are parts of this story which are upsetting and shocking, just as in Anna’s story, and even having finished them both I’d happily read more about either character.

This is an easy, enjoyable read which isn’t all light and fluffy – there are certainly darker parts – but which left me feeling satisfied. I can always rely on Amanda Prowse’s novels for fantastic characters and genuinely interesting storylines, and both Theo and Anna are no different. Definitely recommended.

[Rating: 4/5]


The Rules of Seeing [review]

The Rules of Seeing

Title: The Rules of Seeing
Author: Joe Heap
Publisher: HarperCollins


The Rules of Seeing follows the lives of two women whose paths cross at a time when they need each other most.

Nova, an interpreter for the Metropolitan police, has been blind from birth. When she undergoes surgery to restore her sight her journey is just beginning – she now has to face a world in full colour for the first time.

Kate, a successful architect and wife to Tony, is in hospital after a blow to the head. There, she meets Nova and what starts as a beautiful friendship soon turns into something more.

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[My Review]

I didn’t know what to expect with this read, but ended up absolutely loving it! The charaters are so likable; I compeltely fell in love with both main characters Nova and Kate, but particularly Nova – I mean, who wouldn’t?

The main themes in this novel felt so different and fresh, yet somehow the story felt so relatable despite not being exeperiences that I’ve necessarily had myself. I loved reading about Nova’s journey from being blind (from birth, so she’s never known anything else) to being able to see again. It was so interesting reading about how she dealt with learning to see again, with all these hurdles that I’d never thought about. I also thought Kate’s experience, with her husband (I don’t want to give too much detail away) was so gripping and emotional to read about. The characters all felt like real people, with some really surprising me with their actions, and I loved reading about them.

The main theme of this novel – learning to see, not just literally for Nova but also metaphorically for other people – is so wonderful to read about and, although the story certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, I felt incredibly uplifted at the end. Brilliant reading!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to HarperCollins for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.



The Craft Room by @daveholwill [blog tour review] @rararesources


Today I’m on the blog tour for The Craft Room by Dave Holwill with a review!

Title: The Craft Room
Author: Dave Holwill


Sylvia Blackwell is tired. Her grandchildren are being kept away from her, and the expected inheritance that might finally get her middle-aged son to move out has failed to materialise – thanks to her mother’s cat. It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain composed. On a romantic clifftop walk for her 47th Wedding Anniversary, an unexpected opportunity leads to a momentous decision that will irretrievably change the course of her life.

The Craft Room is a darkly comic tale of sex, crepe paper, murder and knitting in a sleepy Devon town, with a ‘truly original’ premise and genuinely jaw-dropping moments. What would you do if unexpectedly freed from bondage you never knew you were in? How would your children cope? How far would you go to protect them from an uncomfortable truth?

You can only push a grandmother so far…

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[My Review]

The Craft Room is funny, twisted and a really great read! It’s packed with entertaining characters (Sylvia is such fun to read about!) and ridiculous-but-amusing occurances.

The plot is perfect for when you just fancy something light hearted but at the same time pretty dark and twisted… it’s definitely packed with black humour and Dave Holwill threads some satisfyingly subtle, surprising moments into this wacky story.

In many ways it couldn’t be more normal – Sylvia is a grandmother whose life has become dull and uninspiring with her irritating husband and dependent adult son, and often she fantasises about what life would be like if she was free of the shackles of her husband. Until one day it all comes within her grasp… cue plenty of ”accidental deaths”, havoc and naughtiness, all delivered to the reader in a comical and unpredictable package! Definitely recommended.

I received a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Buy The Craft Room on Amazon here.


[About the Author]


Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.

His debut novel, Weekend Rockstars, was published in August 2016 to favourable reviews and his second The Craft Room (a very dark comedy concerning death through misadventure) came out in August 2017. He is currently in editing hell with the third.

Follow Dave on social media:

[The Blog Tour]

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The Stranger Upstairs

The Stranger Upstairs [blog tour review]

Today I’m excited to be a part of the blog tour for Melanie Raabe’s new novel, The Stranger Upstairs!

The Stranger Upstairs

Title: The Stranger Upstairs
Author: Melanie Raabe
Publisher: Pan Macmillan


He calls himself your husband. But you’re the only one who knows the truth.

Several years ago, your husband, and the father of your young son, disappeared. Since then, you’ve dreamt of his return; railed against him for leaving you alone; grieved for your marriage; and, finally, vowed to move on.

One morning, the phone rings. When you answer, a voice at the other end tells you your husband’s on a plane bound for home, and that you’ll see him tomorrow. You’ve imagined this reunion countless times. Of course you have. But nothing has prepared you for the reality. For the moment you realise you don’t know this man.

Because he isn’t your husband; he’s a complete stranger — and he’s coming home with you. Even worse, he seems to know about something very bad you once did — something no one else could possibly know about . . . Could they?

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[My Review]

The Stranger Upstairs is an atmospheric psychological thriller which effectively builds the tension right from the first page; I was really intrigued by Sarah’s story and wanted to know what had really happened throughout the whole novel. There were so many interesting conflicts which made me think one way or another about Sarah’s long-lost husband ‘Philip’ – or the man who seems to be pretending to be him – and made me flit between various theories on why this person would behave that way (none of which ended up being right, I should say!)

The novel is written in a way that encourages you to keep reading just one more chapter – the sentences are short, snappy and to the point (no long, flowing descriptions) and I generally like that when it comes to this genre; it keeps the book gripping and exciting. The chapters themselves are also fairly short, and we begin to see some chapters from the perspective of ‘the stranger’, not just Sarah, which adds even more confusion and sneakiness to the story’s many secrets and ‘hidden truths’.

I’m not sure exactly how I feel about the conclusion – in some ways I was hoping for something else, perhaps because – due to the long build-up – I thought it would end a certain way, but in many ways I feel it was just right: just the right level of surprise, just the right level of drama… and that very last page left me feeling really satisfied, which is all I can ask for in a psychological thriller!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

[About the author]

Melanie Raabe grew up in Thuringia, Germany, and attended the Ruhr University Bochum, where she specialized in media studies and literature. After graduating, she moved to Cologne to work as a journalist by day and secretly write books by night. Her novel, The Trap, won the Stuttgarter Krimipreis (Stuttgart Crime Prize) for best crime debut of the year.

[Follow the Tour]

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